Tennessee Supreme Court OKs Memphis Diocese Sex Abuse Case

Nashville Scene

[court decision]

Posted by Jonathan Meador on Mon, Feb 27, 2012

Sexual abuse proceedings against the Catholic Diocese of Memphis can now continue following an order issued today by the state’s highest court.

The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that the charges brought by Norman Redwing, a Memphis man who alleges he was sexually abused in the 1970s by Father Milton Guthrie, a now-deceased diocesan priest, can continue by effectively detonating one of the church’s prized legal tactics — dubbed ecclesiastical abstention doctrine — which conveniently obstructs legal discovery by shielding the church behind First Amendment protections and allow it to party like it’s 1399.

From a press release (bold emphasis Pith’s) released today by the Supreme Court:

The Diocese asked the trial court to dismiss the case, arguing that the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine deprives state courts of jurisdiction over cases against the church and that the victim’s claims were barred by statute of limitations. The Supreme Court determined that religious organizations are not shielded from suits involving property rights, torts (like Redwing’s claims) and criminal conduct as long as the court can resolve the dispute by applying neutral legal principles and is not required to rely on religious doctrine to decide the case.

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